Innovation to prevent sudden infant death: the wahakura as an Indigenous vision for a safe sleep environment.Aust J Prim Health 2019AJ
The bassinet-like wahakura is an Indigenous initiative for the prevention of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). It was developed by New Zealand Māori in 2005 when Māori were rejecting the 'stop bedsharing' SUDI prevention message and the SUDI disparity between Māori and non-Māori had become entrenched. Made of native flax, the wahakura was promoted as a culturally resonant, in-bed safe sleep device that would disrupt the SUDI risk associated with 'bedsharing where there was smoking in pregnancy' without relying on smoking cessation. A significant movement of weavers and health professionals grew around the wahakura program. A body of research, including infant care surveys, retrospective case review, qualitative enquiry and a randomised controlled trial comparing wahakura and bassinet safety demonstrated the device's public health plausibility, acceptability to Māori women and its essential safety. This facilitated the distribution, by District Health Boards, of safe sleep devices, including a related device called the Pēpi-Pod, and safe sleep education to high-risk, mainly Māori, mothers. Infant mortality in New Zealand fell by 29%, primarily among Māori infants, over the period 2009-15, suggesting that Māori cultural concepts, traditional activities and community engagement can have a significant effect on ethnic inequities in infant mortality.